Can you Bike Route 66? Enjoy Route 66 on a Bicycle

Can you Bike Route 66?

It is now over decades of years since Route 66 was wiped off the map by the Interstate Highway System from being used by motorists. Route 66 is a beautiful route that allowed travelers to enjoy beautiful sceneries and landscapes as they journeyed through the splendid old-fashioned towns of the West America on a road that is shaped like a ribbon. Although automobiles no longer use this route, the road that is stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica is still there, well-marked, and now it has found a unique course, a bike route. 

Route 66, that follows roughly 2,400 miles of the original highway, was initiated by the United Sates Bicycle Route System, USBRS mid 2018 in Missouri and Kansas. This was after months of discussion and consultation with different departments such as American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, that establish highway standards and numbering, and different city authorities such as the Missouri and Kansas where the route 66 passes through. Most towns along the route 66 are excited about the project and are doing their best to attract more travelers so as to help in the growth of these smaller communities.

The route is already busy, hosting a good number of state organized and private events with excited two wheeled adventurers and travelers. Route 66 is well defined, it begins at St. Louis, winds across Missouri, through the cities of Rolla, Springfield, and Joplin then cuts through to the southeastern corner of Kansas. Route 66 is not very busy; therefore, it allows cyclists to travel on the two lane highways. 

Route 66 sign on road

Highlights from Route 66

Route 66 is gaining popularity and attracting more cyclists at a very fast rate. One of the most prominent Mapillary cyclists, Volker Schmidt, commonly known as voschix has already taken a tour on the route 66 that was organized by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) in the year 2016. The journey took them approximately 55 days in total with 47 riding days, 35 camping nights and 20 motel nights. They covered a total of 4,000 km at an average speed of 81.4km per riding day. During the tour, Volker and his team collected 312,760 Mapillary images. Taking of experiences from the journey, they gave the following highlights;

  • Friendly locals and travelers met along the way
  • Diners that serve diverse menus with their kind servers 
  • Spending the night in a starry sky night in the desert
  • Wildlife of different kinds including bears, coyotes and big spiders
  • Primeval Way Café and camp ground at El Morrro in New Mexico
  • Historic chain rocks Route 66 Bridge in Mississippi near St Louis Missouri
  • The famous petrified Forest National Park in Arizona
  • The Turquoise trail with its many surprises including San Francisco de Asis adobe church in the gold miner ghost town of golden
  • Long freight trains that move at a very slow speed like gigantic snakes and their loud and incessantly hoot throughout the night
  • Many historic and old towns 
  • Historical Route 66 equipment including the bridges, fuel pumps, motels, old timer cars, garages, and the giant red rocking chair. 

Challenges along the route 66

Volker notes that the trip was not a walk in the park. They faced a number of challenges along the way. Some of these challenges include;

  • Long stretches without supplies since there are no shops around
  • Steady strong headwind
  • Busy stretches that are used by heavy and fast trucks. This is dangerous therefore cyclists end up travelling on freeway for lack of substitute route
  • Some road surfaces, with the exception of the freeway are of poor quality with annoying potholes 
  • Frequent and unexpected flat tires as a result of using freeway that has tiny needles
  • Campsites are mainly positioned near freeway exits and near railway. As a result, you get poor quality sleep because the trucks and trains hoots loudly and very often during the night
  • Possibility of experiencing thunderstorms along the way

However, even with the challenges, most bikers agree that taking a tour on route 66 is interesting. It allows one to get to know other parts of America, experience different people and cultures, enjoy the company of your fellow bikers as well as sleeping in a tent most nights. Cycling along route 66 also enhances your physical capabilities and riding techniques.

How to prepare for Biking Route 66

To make sure you enjoy the trip, it is important to prepare before taking this long cycling journey. The trick is to cover shorter miles at the beginning of the trip then add miles progressively throughout the journey. To get ready for the journey, below are a few tips;

  • Prepare several months before going on the route 66 trip

The more preparation you do before the trip, the more it will help you to enjoy the journey. Get involved in physical preparations and exercising months before the actual trip on route 66 begins. The Adventure Cycling Association encourages bikers to begin training at least 60 days before the actual Bicycle Route 66, but some experts recommend starting even earlier. Covering approximately 2,500 miles is not a small thing, therefore, start exercising and preparing to improve your fitness six months to a year before. However, the amount and intensity of the exercise will depend with how many miles you want to cover each day. 

  • Exercise the right way

Exercising is important, but you need to exercise right. Ensure your exercises focus on developing strength and grit to help you cover the thousands of miles’ journey. Spend more time on riding so that can get used to being on the bike for long periods. Apart from doing single day ride training, it is recommended to do week long rides on areas that are close to the real route 66 cycling journey.

  • Eat a balanced diet

As you prepare for the journey, make sure your food is rich in nutrients that will help you tackle the challenge ahead. It is also important to practice and imitate eating and hydration routine plans that you anticipate to follow while on the cycling journey. Imitating the eating and hydrating routine will help your stomach to get accustomed and well prepared for the journey. While on the trip, expect to go for long hours without encountering shops or eat out joints. Practicing and getting used to a specific eating and hydration plan will also prepare you mentally and allow you to enjoy the trip, rather than whine all along due to rumbling stomachs.

  • Test your stuff

Have a checklist of the items you will need for the trip. Apart from having them in good order, it is also important to test the items and get a feel of how things will be on the ground. Use the bicycle you intend to ride on for at least a week to ensure it is comfortable for you. Test your clothing items as well, which will help you to determine whether you have packed a lot, or if you are missing a few items. Testing your gear is also important to prepare you mentally and give you a confidence booster that you can do it.

  • Don’t schedule long rest hours during your training

Although is important in your routine, resting too much will do more harm than good. Ensure you mimic what you expect to get on the trip. Schedule rest hours that will help you regain your energy and not kill your endurance level. If you plan to ride for a week long then get a day of rest while on Bicycle Route 66, then do exactly that during your training. Train for a week then get one day of rest.

  • Plan for the trip accordingly

Bicycle Route 66 journeys through deserts and mountains and you do not want to journey while it is either too cold, windy or too hot. Plan your time accordingly so that you are not faced by such weather challenges. The Adventure Cycling Association recommends different travel times depending on the locations. If you intend to start your journey from Chicago, the best time to cycle is in mid-April or September, however, if your start at Santa Monica leaving in April, May or late August or September is ideal. 

  • Remember to enjoy the trip

After getting ready for months, ensuring you have all your items including rain gear, sunscreen, maps, water and other important items for your trip, remember to enjoy the journey. Stay safe and continue pacing yourself, but do not forget to take time to enjoy the beautiful sceneries, try new menus, and meet wonderful locals and fellow bikers. Plan your trip to allow you to visit famous areas and stopovers on route 66.

Although many bikers have enjoyed journeying through route 66, and many more are still planning to, the project is far from being complete. Bikers are still experiencing rough roads on freeways in order to avoid busy trucks on the route, and there are still lots of signage that still need to be done to ensure the route is well marked. However, it is still very interesting, adventurers and fun to cycle on the Route 66. 

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